A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
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Until 1632 the civic constitution enjoyed by York was based on the early charters and the letters patent of 1517. In 1605 and 1607 the city's M.P.s had been asked to secure a renewal of the charters (fn. 1) but nothing was accomplished on these occasions, and it seems that the matter was not raised again for over twenty years. A deputation then went to London but progress in negotiations with the Privy Council was slow, and the new charter was not issued until 19 July 1632. (fn. 2)
This charter generally confirmed old liberties and the major part of the constitutional arrangements. It provided for a new annual fair (fn. 3) and for assessments to pay for the upkeep of the staith, walls, and bridges. Two of its provisions were new. First, the charter reconstituted the common council so that it represented the four wards; guilds were removed from any part in its selection. (fn. 4) Secondly, a number of neighbouring villages and districts was annexed to the jurisdiction of the city. (fn. 5) The first of these changes seems to have caused no contention, but the annexation of the villages, some of which had hitherto been in the Liberty of St. Peter, involved the city in dispute throughout the 1630's.
The attack on this extension of York's jurisdiction came first from the chapter and later also from the annexed townships themselves. Before the suit between the ecclesiastical and civic authorities had made much progress (fn. 6) the inhabitants of the places affected were protesting because they had been assessed for ship-money both by the city and by the customary authorities in the county. (fn. 7) Petitions and counter-petitions were submitted, corporation deputations waited on the Privy Council, and the discussions involved the lord chief justice, the archbishop, and the lord president of the Council in the North. (fn. 8) In June 1636 an order was made by the king in council for the cancellation of the charter, whereupon the corporation began to consider possible amendments, expressing a wish to retain at least some of the annexed places. (fn. 9) Discussions continued before the Council in the North and the lord president drafted some proposals, but although there is no evidence of a solution being reached, the lord mayor and aldermen resolved in April 1640 that an instrument surrendering the charter should be sealed. (fn. 10) In practice this last decision seems to have had no effect, probably because of the unsettled national situation; it seems certain that the disputed townships had been disannexed about 1637, but the new arrangements for the common council remained in operation, and it was reported in November 1645 that the surrender of the charter had been engrossed but not executed. (fn. 11)
York's charter escaped the attentions of the Cromwellian committee for corporations, but in the spring of 1661 complaints about the corporation seem to have provoked an inquiry quo warranto concerning the city's liberties. (fn. 12) These proceedings were apparently fruitless but the corporation was remodelled by royal commissioners in 1662. (fn. 13) Perhaps because of the uncertainty engendered at this time, the corporation discussed in the following year the renewal of the charter and this was accomplished in 1665 when the city's privileges and constitution were confirmed. The new charter failed to mention the annexed townships but it preserved the reorganized common council. (fn. 14)
Renewed fears for the charter were expressed as early as 1682, (fn. 15) but it was not until March 1684 that quo warranto proceedings were begun against the city as part of the royal attack on corporate privileges. After some hesitation the aldermen, 'twenty-four', and common council decided, probably on political grounds, not to appear in defence of the charter. They persevered in this attitude with the result that judgement was given against them in either Easter or Trinity Term 1684. (fn. 16) Further action was delayed until Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys had had the opportunity of giving reassurances to the lord mayor and aldermen during the summer assizes, when the corporation may have promised to surrender the charter without protest and certainly agreed to petition for a new one. (fn. 17) Discussions took place in York during the autumn about revised clauses and there were the usual civic deputations to London; but although the charter was technically suspended the government of the city continued as if its rights were unquestioned. (fn. 18)
A draft was ready before the end of February 1685 but the charter was not granted until 29 July. It gave general confirmation to the city's accustomed liberties and constitution but included a new clause reserving to the Crown the right to remove civic office-holders by Order-in-Council, a normal provision in royal charters about this date. The charter named the lord mayor, recorder, aldermen, 'twenty-four', and common councillors who were to serve, displacing five aldermen of long standing, four of whom were to have retained office under the earlier draft. (fn. 19) The removal of these men, who had been active in the election of March 1685, lends support to Reresby's allegation that the attack on York's charter was partly engineered by influential county gentry, motivated by political and personal animosities. (fn. 20) The charter remained in force for rather more than three years, during which time the king made an unsuccessful attempt to exercise his power to remove members of the corporation. (fn. 21) As part of James's attempt at the reconciliation of his subjects, however, his charter was eventually withdrawn. In November 1688 a writ of restitution was issued, intruded officeholders were discharged under the same proviso by which they had been appointed, and the charter of 1665 came back into force to remain the basis for the government of York until municipal reform. (fn. 22)
Apart from the alteration consequent upon the charter of 1632, the structure of government in the city remained unchanged. Before 1632 the searchers of the guilds acted with the common council in nominating candidates for the elections of mayors, aldermen, and sheriffs. The common council itself had been selected by the aldermen and sheriffs from persons nominated by 28 guilds. Under the new charter the lord mayor, aldermen, and the 'twenty-four' chose the common council and thereafter filled vacancies from nominees of the common council itself. The common council continued to have its part in the election of the upper house but the guilds were now entirely excluded. (fn. 23)
Although the constitutional structure was thus largely unaltered, there were times when the normal electoral process was interrupted, always for political reasons. The first was when the royalists held York in 1643. Newcastle, no doubt wishing to keep a firm and experienced sympathizer in office, asked for the re-election of Sir Edmund Cowper as lord mayor. The corporation, pleading the charter, refused to comply, whereupon Newcastle, on royal authority, forbade the mayoral election and had troops sent to the Guildhall to prevent it. (fn. 24) He renewed his request in January 1644, refusing an interview with the corporation which decided that it would be futile even to assemble at the Guildhall. (fn. 25) After the fall of York, Cowper was removed from the mayoralty on the order of Parliament, Alderman Hoyle, M.P., being elected by the normal procedure to succeed him. (fn. 26) Before the regular mayoral election in January 1645, however, six active royalist aldermen were removed from the bench, although they were not disenfranchised and only one was fined for delinquency. (fn. 27) The corporation was careful to fill the vacancies in the customary way, resolving that only those who had taken the National Covenant were eligible for office. (fn. 28) Later elections were conducted in the normal way, but in 1661 there were complaints, which were at first fruitless, against the men of the Interregnum who were still entrenched in the corporation, while the lord mayor tried to forestall any threat of further displacements by pointing to the lawful elections since 1645. (fn. 29) No doubt there were many in the city in September 1662 who welcomed the work of the commissioners for regulating corporations. Their activities resulted in the removal of 5 aldermen, all elected since 1645. Of 17 aldermen whose election to the bench between 1645 and 1660 indicates parliamentarian sympathies, 8 had died, 5 were now removed, and only 4 remained in office. To fill the vacancies, together with another caused by death, the commissioners appointed 6 aldermen, 1 of whom, Robert Hemsworth, was the only survivor of the ejected royalists. (fn. 30) The corporation, therefore, had suffered considerably from national upheavals but there were no further interventions during Charles II's reign.
In 1685, however, the new charter issued by James II nominated the entire council and replaced 5 serving aldermen. (fn. 31) There is evidence for a political background to this purge, and it is significant that all the displaced aldermen had been elected between 1673 and 1681, when the corporation was earning its reputation as an opponent of royal policy. (fn. 32) Four of the five were gaoled during Monmouth's rebellion. (fn. 33) In October 1688 the last interference with York's electoral customs occurred when the king removed the lord mayor and four aldermen for failing to support him politically, though two of the five, Thomas Raines the lord mayor and Henry Tyreman, were originally his appointees. James was thwarted by the corporation's refusal to elect his nominees because they were not freemen. (fn. 34) When the charter of 1665 was restored a few weeks later the corporation regularized its membership by readmitting the surviving aldermen excluded in 1685, ejecting their supplanters, and displacing all aldermen elected since the corporation was remodelled in 1685, though two of these were re-elected to fill vacancies. Two new sheriffs were also elected and changes made in the common council. (fn. 35) The effect of these actions was to remove obvious sympathizers with Stuart policy and, by adopting the customary procedure for elections, to place the membership of the corporation on a lawful basis.
Avoidance of civic office became increasingly common after 1650. Before that date most of those elected had consented to serve, only a few paying a fine for exoneration on the grounds of ill health, advanced age, preoccupation, or simply unwillingness to serve. (fn. 36) It is possible that in the 1650's men were also eager to avoid office on political grounds, (fn. 37) a factor which may have been effective in some cases thereafter. Freemen fined for office regularly after 1660—more than 40 did so between 1663 and 1688— and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the corporation had already embarked on that policy, which was so marked a feature of the 18th century, of threatening men with election to office in order to augment the city's finances with their fines. (fn. 38) An allegation to this effect was indeed made by Sir Metcalfe Robinson when in successive years he was proposed for the shrievalty and for an aldermanic vacancy, despite the fact that his duties as York's M.P. would mean prolonged absence from the city. (fn. 39) Not all those who fined for office were ever formally proposed, many paying when warned that they might be. Most of those who paid for exemption did so to avoid the shrievalty, probably because candidates for aldermen were more carefully selected, though fines for aldermen were not unknown and yielded a greater sum. In the early part of the century, exonerations varied considerably, but after 1660 the corporation on several occasions laid down standard fines, a fact which emphasizes the purely financial aspect of this matter. Nevertheless, it is likely that the corporation experienced some genuine difficulty in persuading men to accept offices which were troublesome. (fn. 40) Service on the corporation was normally for life and only a few members sought release from this obligation once they had accepted it. Before 1640 two aldermen, Robert Peacock and Thomas Lawne, resigned because reduced circumstances made it impossible for them to uphold the dignity of office, Lawne being granted a small pension; (fn. 41) when Alderman Hemsworth resigned soon after being reinstated in 1662 he, too, received a pension. (fn. 42) Sir Roger Langley was allowed to resign in 1667 without paying a fine but was asked for a gift of plate, while Alderman Fothergill was fined £100 for the discharge he had requested because of his heavy losses in the serious fire of 1694. (fn. 43)
The aldermen and 'twenty-four' met regularly. Even during the Civil War the records bear witness to an attempt to keep normal administration working, despite an inevitable preoccupation with defence; a measure of uncertainty, however, is reflected in a number of sketchy entries in the minutes. (fn. 44) The only break in meetings came between March and June 1685, when the city's liberties were in jeopardy. (fn. 45) Before the Restoration meetings took place at intervals of ten days to a fortnight, though there were 60 in 1645 when the corporation was occupied in post-war reconstruction of various kinds. After 1660 meetings were on the average held slightly more often than once a month, though the range of business was undiminished. (fn. 46) Attendance varied considerably, being usually greatest at the election days; over the whole century the number of aldermen present apart from the lord mayor averaged about seven and the number of the 'twenty-four' about six. There was a marked falling off in the attendance of the 'twenty-four' after the Civil War, and on several occasions there were only the lord mayor and a small group of aldermen present to transact business. After the bench had been packed by James II the aldermen of his choice were naturally most assiduous. Throughout the century the dominance of the aldermen over the 'twenty-four' was maintained. Moreover, an analysis of the attendance at meetings shows that from time to time small groups of men became preponderant within the bench and thus made the civic oligarchy the more exclusive. (fn. 47)
Meetings of the lord mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, and 'twenty-four'—a body some times called the 'privy council'—were held in the council chamber on Ouse Bridge. They were conducted with a certain formality and dignity: gowns were worn, minutes were read, and the correct precedence was maintained in the seating. (fn. 48) On Lord Mayor's Day, 3 February, there was an elaborate ceremony of mayor-making at the Guildhall. (fn. 49) Attempts were made to see that members served and there was a system of fines for absence, though it seems to have been ineffective. Letters demanding attendance were sent to those who, especially in time of plague, withdrew to the country, though these too were liable to be futile. (fn. 50) Christopher Consett was able to ignore several such communications during his aldermanship; but, during the plague of 1631, a threat of punishment, backed perhaps by Wentworth, resulted in the prompt reappearance of Aldermen Belt and Besson. (fn. 51) On account of their various legal duties, the sheriffs were expected to reside continuously in York and were liable to heavy fines for absence. (fn. 52)
The business transacted at meetings can be grouped under eight main heads: election of civic office-holders; maintenance of the city's privileges and interests; supervision of civic and parochial office-holders; general care of the finances and the raising of special rates; admissions to freedom and regulation of trade and industry; repair of such public property as walls, streets, bridges, and staiths; provision of such elementary public services as gaols, conduits, sewers, and common crane; and precautions against plague and relief of pauperism and distress. Although the council devoted time to ceremonial, to questions of precedence, and to feasting, most of its recorded business nevertheless related to matters of more practical concern to the common weal. (fn. 53)
After 1632 the common council was composed of eighteen councilmen from each of the four wards and each ward had a foreman; there was also a foreman for the whole common council, which submitted a list of candidates for the office from which the 'privy council' made the selection. (fn. 54) The only serious clashes between the 'privy council' and the common council concerned the foremanship. In 1664 the upper house tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to make it an annual office; in 1694 the common council resisted the removal of its foreman on political grounds, and the upper house agreed that he should remain in office for a further year, during which time a joint committee met to arrange a solution. (fn. 55) The common council was summoned at irregular intervals, to participate in elections or to consult with the 'privy council'. To it were referred matters relating to the charter in the 1630's, petitions for the revival of the Council in the North, the declaration for a free Parliament in February 1660, and the answer to the quo warranto proceedings in 1684 when some of the common council registered disagreement with those aldermen who wished to defend the charter. (fn. 56) All these were matters of such major importance that it no doubt seemed desirable to associate the common council with any action taken, but the most regular part of its work was financial. Not only were the commons represented among the auditors and on the leasing committee, but they were summoned by the upper chamber when, for example, a rate had to be assessed or extra expenditure was called for to meet M.P.s' wages, the cost of a royal visit, or a special watch at the gates. (fn. 57) They were usually consulted when the strays or the city's debts were under discussion, and they made good their claim to share in deciding fines for exoneration, to which, indeed, they paid particular attention, several times urging alterations in the standard fines eventually adopted. (fn. 58) Although it was perhaps usually called to confirm decisions rather than to make them, the evidence suggests some increase in the common council's influence—an influence which became more marked in the next century.
The corporation interspersed its business with a certain amount of feasting and treats, the most frequent being those which followed the election of office-holders; in the twenties and thirties this last custom was modified by the occasional suspension of the sheriff's and chamberlain's feasts, possibly under the influence of the Puritan group in the corporation, (fn. 59) and the feasts seem to have been irregular until the Restoration. The septennial fishing-day and the sheriffs' riding were additional opportunities for corporate merry-making. (fn. 60) The most lavish entertainments were reserved for royal visits: the lord mayor and aldermen were gowned in scarlet, an escort was provided by the sheriffs, the trained bands were drawn up to form a guard of honour, and the visitors heard a speech from the recorder, music from the waits, and fanfares from the trumpeters. (fn. 61) Dignitaries of Church and State were accorded a less elaborate but none the less formal reception, again with wining and feasting. (fn. 62)
The office of lord mayor was filled according to certain conventions. New aldermen might reach it rapidly, sometimes, as a mark of honour, at the election following their promotion to the bench; but it seems that normally seniority was observed and the election a formality. Although immediate re-election was not allowed by the charters, a second term of office was lawful, and was indeed usual until 1662. (fn. 63) From 1603 to 1701 the mayoralty was held on 60 occasions by merchants, (fn. 64) their preponderance in the office being maintained throughout the century, as it could not fail to be when merchants markedly outnumbered other occupations on the aldermanic bench. There were 6 merchants on the bench when Elizabeth died; of 29 aldermen elected from 1603 to 1644, 18 were merchants; of 19 elected between 1645 and the purge of 1662, 11; of 26 elected or royally appointed from 1662 to 1684, 16 again were merchants. By comparison, other occupations enjoyed slender representation on the bench, and this, too, is reflected in the mayoral lists. From 1603 to 1701 the chair was occupied on 11 occasions by drapers, on 7 by grocers, on 4 each by attorneys and gentlemen, on 3 by apothecaries, and twice each by haberdashers, tanners, and goldsmiths; the occupations of vintner, silk-weaver, hosier, skinner, roper, and butcher each provided one lord mayor. The highest civic office was, therefore, entirely filled by members of the 15 occupations already mentioned. The only other crafts to provide aldermen were the innholders and dyers, but the single representative of each died before attaining the mayoralty. This analysis strikingly emphasizes the economic and social dominance of the merchants in York and prompts three further observations. First, the aldermanic bench was recruited from only a very narrow section of the city's trading and industrial community; secondly, the provision of 78 out of 101 mayors between 1603 and 1701 by merchants, grocers, and drapers mirrors the importance of the distributive trades in York's economy; thirdly, gentry and professional men such as attorneys played an insignificant part in the government of the city.
Candidates for aldermanships were normally drawn from the 'twenty-four'—the ex-sheriffs—and for most of the century this body, too, epitomized the dominance of the merchants. Between 1603 and 1685 there were 167 sheriffs, of whom 81 were merchants; the distributive trades of merchant, grocer, and draper together provided 100 sheriffs. During this period, however, the sheriffs were drawn from 27 occupations, which indicates that (apart from any question of their attendance) the 'twenty-four' introduced a somewhat wider range of economic interests into the 'privy council'. Furthermore, between 1686 and 1702, merchants ceased to have a large representation in the shrievalty—only 5 were merchants of 30 whose trades have been ascertained during this period—a fact which resulted in the diminution of their share in the mayoralty early in the 18th century and which was symptomatic of the economic decline of the mercantile body about this time.
Although it is impossible, in the absence of relevant inventories, to obtain an exact picture of the wealth of the city's ruling group, there are some pointers to the social and economic status which some at least of the aldermen attained. (fn. 65) First, ten aldermen were knighted between 1603 and 1702. Secondly, in the hearth-tax returns aldermanic households appear fairly comfortable by comparison with the average for the city. (fn. 66) Thirdly, many of the principal citizens owned not only city property but also rural estates, and some resided in the country for long periods. (fn. 67) James Brooke's country house was at Ellenthorpe (N.R.) and Edward Thompson's at Sheriff Hutton (N.R.); John Geldart had a home at Askham Bryan (W.R.) as well as land at various places in the North Riding; Matthew Topham owned property at South Duffield (E.R.); John Harrison held the manor of Acaster Selby (W.R.); Stephen Watson bequeathed property at Middleham (N.R.) to the corporation; Sir William Allanson, the son of an Ampleforth yeoman, had land at Crayke (N.R.) and Ousefleet (W.R.) as well as in the city; (fn. 68) Sir Roger Jacques owned property in Colliergate, Pavement, and at Elvington (E.R.); Sir Thomas Dickinson, in addition to property at Kirby Hall (W.R.), Ouseburn (W.R.), Green Hammerton (W.R.), and Beverley (E.R.), owned tithes in numerous parishes of the East Riding. (fn. 69) Furthermore, some of the leading families achieved sufficient social status to intermarry with the gentry, and these, too, linked the city with the countryside. Thomas Marshall's daughter married Sir William Ingram's son; Sir William Allanson married into the Tancreds; Sir Robert and William Watter had connexions by marriage with the Stricklands and the Slingsbys; and the prominent civic family of Herbert, already possessing an ancient lineage, developed further ties with the gentry of Yorkshire and Monmouth. (fn. 70)
A few important families, though how many it is impossible to say, eventually left the town to reappear in county society. This happened in the case of the Brookes of Ellenthorpe who, after providing two aldermen and one M.P., dropped out of civic life; Elias Micklethwaite's family settled at Swine (E.R.), one of them becoming prominent in the 18th century as a Lord of the Treasury, another as a peer; the Harrisons vanished from the civic scene after three of them had been aldermen, but the son of one was subsequently high sheriff of the county. Sir Henry and Edward Thompson of Escrick played an important part in civic and political affairs after the Restoration—Sir Henry's son was lord mayor in 1699, while his grandson, though M.P. for York, was more prominent in national politics as a privy councillor. Perhaps the most important civic family with county connexions, however, was the Robinsons: two members served as aldermen in the first quarter of the century; a third, Sir William, who by this time possessed Newby Park (near Rainton, N.R.), fined for alderman in 1637 and was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1639; his son, Sir Metcalfe, was elected M.P. in 1660 and 1661 and fined for alderman, while his nephew, also Sir William, was lord mayor in 1700 and several times M.P. for York. (fn. 71)
Perhaps the majority of York's prominent families could not aspire to such social eminence and had to rest content with connexions of marriage and kinship within the city; there is abundant evidence of intermarriage between the families of civic leaders, and at all times during the century the upper chamber included several relations by blood or marriage in its membership. Moreover, for long periods the governing body of the city included successive generations of the same family. To those instances already mentioned can be added the Dickinsons, the Tophams, and the Breareys, all of whom provided two aldermen and were related to other leading members of the corporation. Nevertheless, successful civic families seem to have lasted only two or, at most, three generations. The ruling oligarchy was, therefore, not only based on a narrow range of economic interests but was largely recruited from a necessarily limited group of interrelated families who had the time to discharge the responsibilities of civic office and the means to uphold the dignity and defray the expenses of their position.
The corporation appointed a number of officers for the performance of governmental duties in the city. The 'privy council' appointed six or eight chamberlains each year, usually from the ranks of the common council, and the office was normally regarded as the first stage in civic promotion, leading to the shrievalty and eventually to an aldermanship. The administration of the city's finances was thus the first experience of civic government which most leading citizens obtained. (fn. 72) Among the salaried officers of the corporation, the recorder and the common clerk were the most influential. The recorder was the corporation's principal legal adviser, being assisted in this capacity by one or more 'counsel in fee'; to the recorder and counsel were referred jurisdictional disputes with other authorities, and their advice was sought on various questions in which the city's interests were involved. (fn. 73) The recorders often attended council meetings, one of them, Bernard Ellis, being displaced in 1625 partly because of his infirmity, partly because he was usually absent from the city. (fn. 74) Among holders of the office were two distinguished lawyers, Serjeant Richard Hutton, later justice of the Common Pleas, and Sir Thomas Widdrington, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the last years of the Interregnum. (fn. 75) On several occasions one of the city's counsel was promoted to the recordership, (fn. 76) but in 1662 John Turner was appointed in response to a royal letter of recommendation, while in 1685 the Earl of Burlington was elected, possibly in an attempt to placate the king; (fn. 77) there is no other evidence of politics influencing the appointment. The common clerk conducted the city's day-to-day legal business as well as taking a hand in civic administration as a whole, and he, too, had assistants. Three holders of the office in the period gave long service: Leonard Headlam (162645), Nicholas Blackbeard (1646-71), and William Kitchingman (1671-99). (fn. 78) The election of the latter caused a sharp quarrel in the corporation, some members alleging that it had been arranged at a private meeting from which they were excluded; but the appointment was eventually confirmed. (fn. 79) The lord high stewardship of York was an office of political rather than governmental importance, a succession of powerful patrons being chosen by the corporation. (fn. 80) Lesser officers, appointed for specific tasks, included two serjeants-at-mace, a swordbearer, the city husband (whose office was sometimes combined with that of paver), four or six officers-at-mace, the waits, a trumpeter, and the cook. (fn. 81) There were few changes, but in 1627 the bridgemastership was abolished after complaints of inefficiency, and the office of general receiver was instituted, the holder having the specific task of collecting the rents due to the city. (fn. 82) In the sixties and seventies the corporation paid a fee to an 'intelligencer' for sending weekly reports to the lord mayor. (fn. 83)
The structure of law courts and local government in the city remained unaltered from earlier times, despite the new charters of the 17th century. (fn. 84) Meetings of the courts were discontinued for a time during the Civil War, however, and the conflict of jurisdictions in the city was temporarily abated when the corporation purchased St. Peter's Liberty during the Interregnum. (fn. 85) Even in a place the size of York, the parish remained for many purposes the essential unit of government. Assessments for civic rates and national taxation were based on the parish, (fn. 86) and the parochial officers were responsible for common armour, for the watch, for street repairs, and for poor relief, to name only the larger obligations. (fn. 87) The watch was undertaken in each parish by householders in turn, but it seems that it was not constant but arranged by the constables only in times of emergency, such as plague, or during visits to York by important people. (fn. 88) Constables, overseers, and churchwardens raised and spent funds in the course of their duties in the way common to their counterparts in the countryside, though the direction and supervision to which they were subjected by the corporation were possibly closer than that maintained by many country justices. To assume parochial duties was no more popular in the city than elsewhere, and aldermen sometimes had to coerce citizens reluctant to accept an office. (fn. 89) Malfeasance or neglect of duty by parochial officers was usually punished at Quarter Sessions which, between 1638 and 1688 for example, punished a steady stream of such offenders in an attempt to improve the efficiency of local government. (fn. 90) In each of the four wards, three aldermen exercised general supervision and held the wardmote courts. These met quarterly to punish such misdemeanours as the illicit keeping of pigs, failure to maintain pavements or to scour sewers, and the making of dunghills in the streets. (fn. 91) The numerous fines levied for non-appearance suggest that these courts were seriously weakened by the 17th century. (fn. 92)
A variety of civil pleas was heard either by the lord mayor and aldermen at ordinary meetings of the corporation, or by the sheriff's court of pleas, some actions commencing in the former but being referred to the latter for judgement. (fn. 93) Access to these courts was no doubt useful in a commercial city, especially in a litigious age, and the corpora tion successfully defended its civil jurisdiction against the encroachments of the Council in the North. (fn. 94) But perhaps the most important law-court was that of Quarter Sessions, conducted by the aldermen as justices of peace for the city. Its work was complementary to that of the corporation and both bodies were dominated by the same men. The court dealt with a great variety of business presented by constables and juries. It punished crime; it ordered the chastisement of vagrants and the execution of the poor law; it considered complaints of unscoured sewers, broken paving, and buildings encroaching on the street; it regulated wages and settled quarrels between masters and apprentices; it punished trading offences, licensed corndealers, and supervised the markets; it convicted absentees from church, and during the Interregnum was particularly severe on moral offenders. (fn. 95)
There were no breaches of public order serious enough to suggest chronic unrest in the town, but three disturbances are recorded. One took place at a funeral; (fn. 96) another began on Shrove Tuesday 1673 when apprentices disturbed a service in the minster with their horseplay; (fn. 97) and a third, in 1688, broke out when apprentices at play near the minster attacked a house containing a Roman Catholic chapel. (fn. 98) During the political alarms of Charles II's reign, the corporation was especially watchful and active in searching for suspected rebels, but no disturbances were provoked. (fn. 99) The crimes which perhaps aroused the greatest public interest were two attacks on the lord mayor in 1618 and in 1664; neither proved fatal. (fn. 100)
The management of income and expenditure was in the hands of the chamberlains. (fn. 101) The office was arduous and sometimes expensive, for the chamberlains not only had to fine for exemption from the offices of bridgemaster and muremaster, but were called upon several times to use their own money for civic purposes with the prospect of delayed repayment. (fn. 102) Their accounts were audited by a committee of both chambers of the corporation, but there is no detailed evidence of its work. (fn. 103) Special provision was made for the management of the corporation's properties: the city husband was responsible for their maintenance; (fn. 104) in 1627 the first general receiver was appointed to collect rents; (fn. 105) and occasional committees for arranging leases gave way in 1631 to the standing committee for leases, the members of which held office for three years. (fn. 106)
The city had five major sources of income at its disposal: payments for freedom, fines for exoneration from office, rents from property, loans, and ad hoc assessments. Payments for freedom produced a steady income throughout the century, even though those who were enfranchised by patrimony paid nothing and those who qualified by apprenticeship paid only £1. Admission did not fluctuate greatly, except for the isolated increases in enfranchisement produced by such extraneous circumstances as the aftermath of war or plague and the imminence of a parliamentary election. (fn. 107) Furthermore, those who sought freedom by redemption could be mulcted of larger sums, ranging from 20 nobles to £20, the latter sum being fixed in 1694 as a minimum payment. (fn. 108) Exonerations from office, which were more frequent after 1660 than before, occupied an increasingly important place in civic finances. At first the sums demanded varied widely, the fine for the office of sheriff being £50 to £66 13s. 4d., that for alderman being £200 or £300; Sir William Robinson, however, escaped aldermanship with a payment of £50 in 1637. Later, several attempts were made, largely at the request of the common council, to stipulate a minimum fine for the shrievalty. This was fixed at £150 in 1659, cancelled in 1662, fixed again at £100 in 1664, and raised to £130 in 1669, in each case abatements being allowed with the commons' consent. (fn. 109) Fines for aldermen, which were much rarer, continued to produce £200 or £300. (fn. 110) In 1691, however, after disagreements over certain exonerations, minima were laid down for both offices—£200 for alderman, £130 for sheriff—any variations in these amounts being dependent on the consent of the commons, and these sums were subsequently obtained. (fn. 111)
Rents of property produced the largest revenue for the city chamber, the rental including garths, gardens and orchards within and without the walls, stretches of the moats, buildings on the bridges, and numerous shops and tenements throughout the city; in addition, the city received rents for the common crane, Thursday Market, and the pasture at Tang Hall. The income from rents rose from about £250 a year in the 1620's to about £750 in the 1690's, but there were substantial arrears outstanding by that time. (fn. 112) The rental was increased in two ways. First, the corporation occasionally bought property, its largest purchase being the Mint Yard in 1675; and some land was acquired when the corporation undertook to administer legacies of property or money for charitable purposes. (fn. 113) Secondly, the yield was improved by raising rents and more careful management of leases. Occasionally there were drives against tenants in arrears, some of whom were ejected or distrained, although after the Civil War the corporation, to its credit, made allowances in needy cases. (fn. 114) The successive committees for leases were entrusted with the task of bargaining with tenants for renewals and supervised entry fines and rents. (fn. 115)
These important sources of income were supplemented by smaller receipts which varied from year to year: fines from the courts and for absence from council meetings, the city's share of guild forfeitures, and payments of interest for loans. (fn. 116) When these normal funds failed to meet expenditure, the corporation could resort to two expedients. Several times during the century money was borrowed from aldermen and other prominent citizens, usually for a short time, sometimes merely to anticipate revenue; loans amounting to more than £1,600 were raised in this way between 1603 and 1625, (fn. 117) and to more than £1,500 between 1640 and 1687. (fn. 118) Secondly, before 1650, a number of rates, each of £200 or £300, was assessed on the citizens with the assent of the common council. More than £2,000 was thus obtained, but the assessment for £400 in 1644 seems to have been the last. (fn. 119)
These moneys were used by the chamberlains largely to pay various fees, salaries, and allowances, to defray the cost of civic entertainment and pageantry, and to meet the cost of repairs to streets, walls, bridges, public buildings, and corporation property generally. The amount spent each year on fees and wages rose from between £90 and £100 in the first decade to between £150 and £170 by 1672. (fn. 120) The lord mayor received the largest salary—£50. Of the major officers of the corporation, the recorder was paid £13 6s. 8d.; the common clerk's salary rose from £5 in 1602 to £20 in 1672, with additional fees and allowances; and the receiver was paid at first £5, and later £10. Humbler officers, some of them probably part-time, received smaller regular payments ranging from 13s. 4d. to £6, with additions for extra duties. (fn. 121) Wages and expenses for M.P.s figured in this category, moreover, and were a considerable if intermittent burden until 1660, although they were sometimes met from special assessments; (fn. 122) fees were also paid to civic preachers until the Restoration. (fn. 123)
Royal visits placed an almost insupportable strain on the city's normal revenues, for apart from the need to clean the streets and clear obstructions, money was required for suitable entertainment, gifts, and all the trappings of civic ceremonial. The king's visit in 1633, for example, cost more than £345, and that of 1639 exceeded £350. (fn. 124) It was to meet charges of this kind that money was either borrowed or raised by a rate. (fn. 125) At intervals civic hospitality was also dispensed in the form of sack or claret to dignitaries of Church and State, and in order to uphold the prestige of the city gowns and livery were occasionally provided for its officers. (fn. 126)
Repairs to thoroughfares and buildings were a constant burden on the city's finances and of ten the heaviest. For the greatest tasks—repairs to the staith, Ouse Bridge, the walls, bars, and streets—the corporation sometimes had to draw on loans and assessments, (fn. 127) but even when these expedients were not required the chamberlains' books record payments year after year for work on corporation property. Charges for buildings amounted to £543 in 1675, £343 in 1676, and £508 in 1678, for example. (fn. 128) Among other disbursements of this kind were those for the first waterworks in 1617 and for the purchase of St. Thomas's lands, St. Peter's Liberty, and the Mint Yard. (fn. 129)
There were other important occasional payments for legal fees, the renewals of the charter, military charges in peace and war, and the expenses of civic deputations. Besides these, the relief of distress, which was only partly met by the charities administered by the corporation, accounted for a growing volume of expenditure during the century. (fn. 130) To these must be added numerous minor expenses for the common bulls, the stocks, cushions in the Guildhall, feasts, and ex gratia payments to servants and messengers. (fn. 131)
Although it is not possible to obtain complete figures (fn. 132) it is clear that there were fluctuations in the amounts of money involved and that income and expenditure expanded at an uneven rate. In the first decade, income was probably between £500 and £600 and expenditure between £450 and £550; by the end of the century those amounts had approximately doubled. There were, it seems, only ten years in which the auditors returned a deficit, but insolvency was often escaped only by means of loans and assess ments. The city's financial condition was worst during the first quarter of the century and it was at that time that the corporation showed some anxiety about the situation (fn. 133) and that expedients were resorted to most frequently. Heavy financial demands in the middle years of the century could similarly only be met by loans, while the diminishing surplus of the last twenty years suggests that the corporation's finances, burdened with growing demands and without regular rates, were in an unsound condition.